New – 15 April 2007
The Valkyrie is part of Richard Wagner’s operatic Ring Cycle. This brief treatise is based upon numerous observations and interpretations of this tale of gods, dwarfs, heroes, and magical objects. On the one hand, the operas of the Ring Cycle (The Ring of the Nibelungs) have an authoritative explanation by George Bernard Shaw in terms of capitalism and the ruling class. On the other hand, the myths and legends upon which the operas are based may provide us with a better understanding of the realities of our world, including the current status of the Sumerian Anunnaki and the gods and goddesses (extraterrestrials) who might still be here on the planet Earth.
The Valkyrie follows the action of The Rhine Gold, the Ring Cycle's prelude. [The narrative is shown in blue.]
In the interval between the events of the two operas, Wotan has realized he has no security for the continuance of his reign, since Alberic may at any moment contrive to recover the ring. Worse yet, Alberic would have the full power of the ring and be able to wield it because the dwarf has forsaken love. The latter is not something available to Wotan. For love, although perhaps not his highest need, is a higher need than gold. Otherwise he would be no god.
In his insecurity, Wotan has hit on the idea of forming a heroic bodyguard. It seems that all tyrants, despots, and absolute dictators inevitably establish a personal guard of the best possible warriors in order to be secure in their absolute authority. Of course, the big challenge is to ensure the loyalty of the palace guard. Wotan, well ahead of the thinking here, decides to train his love children as war-maidens (Valkyries), whose duty is to sweep through battlefields and bear away to Valhalla the souls of the bravest who fell there. This might be construed as a highly selecfive military draft.
This is really quite a clever idea. Why not create beings who can be encouraged to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth -- and then for the icing on the cake, select out the cream of the crop of those beings to act as kings, priests, and warriors with which to ensure that the wildness of the world is tamed for the benefit of the ruling elite? This technique is applicable to all levels, provided of course that beings thus created never quite catch on to the ruse and the fact that they're being used for cannon fodder.
Wotan realizes that in order to be reinforced in his will by a host of warriors, he must thoroughly indoctrinate them in order to ensure their unswerving loyalty. This he does with the help of the master of deceit, Loki. The world has long known that all militaries require as an integral part of their foundation a massive amount of deceit, gullibility and misinformation in order to convince any reasonably intelligent being to routinely risk being maimed, killed, and/or forced to suffer enormous hardships when these same hapless beings have little or nothing to gain from such sacrifices -- and in which the so-called leaders gain 99% of the benefits.
Wotan and Loki use the conventional deceits of law and duty, supernatural religion, and self-sacrificing idealism – all of which the leaders will claim to be the essence of any godhood, but which is really only the machinery of the love of necessary power. And therein lies its mortal weakness. The process does secure the fanatical devotion of the warrier class to Wotan’s system of government, but as Wotan knows perfectly well such systems, in spite of their moral pretensions, inevitably serve selfish and ambitious tyrants better than benevolent despots, and that, if once Alberic got the ring back, he would easily out-Valhalla Valhalla (if not buy it outright as a going concern and then outsource its functions). The only chance of permanent security from Wotan’s point of view is the appearance in the world of a hero who without any illicit prompting from Wotan, will destroy Alberic and wrest the ring from Fafnir. However...
The same problem may have been felt by the gods and goddesses who conceived of man as a useful means of doing all the work, but who then discover the disadvantages of having underlings who create their own dreams, hopes, and ultimately reality. You just can't keep the kids down on the farm. The basic problem then grows exponentially as the population of these kids exceed all reasonable limits. It's easy, for example, for the superior human to stamp out the life of an ant, but who will flee in panic at the sight of a huge population of army ants on the march. The same might apply to gods and humans.
The kink in Wotan's armor turns out to be the daughter who is uncorrupted by his ambition and unfettered by his machinery of power -- not to mention his alliances with Fricka and Loki. Valkyrie Brunhilde will in fact be Wotan’s true will, his real self.
This is always the way. The children of the powerful so often develop thoughts and ideas which are contrary to their parents' plans and ambitions. One example is a member of the Baskin-Robbins family writing the book, Diet for a New America, in which the "nutritional myths perpetuated by the powerful meat and dairy industries" (including the Baskin-Robbins ice-cream empire) are debunked. At the other extreme are the actions of Enki taken on behalf of humans and in direct opposition to the ruling dictates of his father, Anu, as well as his brother, Enlil. There are countless more examples, all of which imply that family loyalty is a very tenuous tie.
In addition to everything else, Wotan has caused a mortal woman to bear him twins: a son and a daughter. The daughter he abandons to a fierce chief named Hunding, while his son he teaches the life of the wolf. This is the only power a god can teach, the power of doing without happiness. Then at the wedding of his daughter, Sieglinda, to Hunding, Wotan strikes a sword up to the hilt into a mighty tree -- the very pillar of Hunding’s house – such that only the might of a hero can withdraw it.
Think of this as the same technique used in The Sword in the Stone of Camelot legends. It is a motif worth exploring. Any weapon with which the old guard may be undone -- and which is available only to the hero who has made the journey which will allow him or her the opportunity to grasp and wield the weapon -- such a weapon is the means by which true freedom and sovereignty are gained. The weapon may be knowledge or wisdom -- which can often be more cutting than a mere sharpened slice of metal. It may also be the gnostics version of discriminating between the evil of the world and the good.
The First Act
In Hunding’s home, in the midst of a storm, an exhausted man stumbles into the space with all the appearances of being “an adept from the school of unhappiness.” Sieglinda finds him at the hearth. The adept has been in a fight, where his weapons had failed him even when his arms did not. They strike an immediate accord, and when the husband arrives, even he notices a connection between them. The man introduces himself as the son of Wotan, known to man as Wolfing of the Volsungs.
For the benefit of his hosts, he recalls as his earliest memory, returning from the hunt with his father to find their home destroyed, his mother murdered and his sister missing. The crimes were that of a tribe called the Neidings, upon whom the son has declared implacable war. Unfortunately the son is alone, has no friends and less luck -- and thus his "war" is temporarily not quite at full strength.
His latest exploit had been the slaying of brother who was forcing his sister to wed against her will. As luck would have it, the woman had subsequently been slain by her brother’s kinsmen, and Hunding, at whose hearth he had taken refuge, was clansman to the slain brothers and was thus bound to avenge them. Hunding tells the Volsung that in the morning, weapons or no weapons, he must fight for his life. Then he orders the woman to bed, and follows her, taking with him his spear.
It's interesting that Hunding (and Wotan) carry spears, while heroes -- including this son of Wotan -- inevitably carry swords. A sword, after all, is a very personal weapon which requires one to be up close and personal with one's adversary, looking them in the eye and often getting splattered by their blood when things are going your way. But the spear is a longer distant weapon. It allows its owner to keep his hands relatively clean while killing other beings. It also allows the spear thrower to be a bit more cowardly, keeping himself at a safe distance from the killing field (if he's lucky). One can only marvel at the potentially extraordinary cowardice of the alleged warrior who uses missiles and high altitude bombings -- particularly when the actual launchings are done by others who are far, far away from the safety of the leader's shelter. It can be said of Wotan, at least, that he often appears in the midst of potential conflict.
The Volsung is left alone with nothing to console himself but his father’s promise that he would find a weapon in his hand when he most needed one. And lo and behold, in the dying ambers of the fire, the golden hilt of the sword stuck in the mighty tree provides a glint of light. It is, however, not quite enough of a glint for the hero to see it. All too often, knowledge and the hints of wisdom are also overlooked... until a mentor or facilitator aids the hero by pointing out the very slightly obvious.
In the opera, Hunding has been drugged by his wife, who returns and tells the Volsung of the one-eyed man who appeared at her forced marriage, and of the sword. This will allow the son of Wotan to arm himself. The inevitable comraderie caused by this relevation and the sharing of a conspiracy prompts the two of them to really hit it off and as they begin to exchange confidences, they both realize that she is his stolen half-sister. Whereupon our hero names his newly drawn sword, “Nothung”, which means, “Needed”. He plucks it from the tree as her bride-gift, and readies himself for battle.
The Second Act
Wotan calls his war-maiden Brunhilde to ensure that Hunding should fall in the combat. [As has been long noted, all's fair in love, war, football, Risk, and ice skating competitions.] Fricka, however, points out that the dynamic duo has already heaped incest upon adultery. “A hero may have defied the law, and put his own will in its place; but can a god hold him guiltless when the whole power of the gods can enforce itself only by law? Fricka is outraged and calls for punishment.
Wotan pleads the necessity of encouraging heroism in order to keep up the Valhalla bodyguard. [There are seldom good reasons for most actions; only good excuses. This is particularly true of battles, wars, and maintaining bodyguards.] Fricka is absolutely right when she declares that the ending of the gods began when he brought the wolf-hero into the world; and now, to save their very existence, she pitilessly demands his destruction. Wotan has no power to refuse: it is Fricka’s mechanical force, and not his thought, that really rules the world. He has to recall Brunhilde; take back his former instructions; and ordain that Hunding shall slay the Volsung.
There’s just this one minor problem. Brunhilde is not of the same mind as her father, and is in fact operating on a far higher and more divine place than is Wotan. She challenges the order, only to have Wotan’s rage temporarily overwhelm her and force her submission to Fricka’s plan.
Meanwhile, the Volsung, Siegmund, has followed his sister bride -- the latter who has fled to the mountains upon realizing that she has brought her hero to shame (the incest and adultery bit). Then with his sister lying exhausted and senseless in his arms, Brunhilde arrives and solemnly warns Siegmund that he must presently leave the earth with her. Siegmund is okay with dying in battle, going to Valhalla to take his place among the heroes there, meeting his father there, and finding a wife and/or a plethora of beautiful wish-maidens waiting on him. The deal breaker is that sis won’t be there.
Naturally the hero refuses to go along with the plan. [That’s why he’s a hero. Heroes don’t adhere to agendas and subterfuge. They resist!] Siegmund figures that rather than be slain by Hunding -- aided and abetted by the gods -- that he will kill his sister and himself, in that order. [It doesn’t work as well the other way.] Brunhilde is so moved that she decides to ignore Wotan and Fricka’s commands, and pledges to Siegmund the protection of her shield.
It is perhaps instructive to note how selfless acts and a willingness to forego heavenly pleasures in order to trek the more honorable route can so often forge alliances with powerful friends. [The character of Balian in the movie, The Kingdom of Heaven, is a case in point.] This is the opposite of the situation where the far less honorable man is willing to kill his son in order to gain a covenant of benefits promised by a deranged and merciless, alleged benefactor.
When Siegmund and Hunding meet, with the Valkyrie’s shield before the hero, Siegmund is about to deliver the deathblow on his foe when Wotan appears and with his spear breaks Siegmund’s sword. Wotan then kills Siegmund. Brunhilde snatches up the fragments of the sword and flees, while an enraged Wotan slays Hunding with a wave of his hand, and heads off in pursuit of his disobedient daughter.
Brunhilde arrives upon a battle scene, but instead of carrying a hero off to Valhalla finds hersefl busy instead helping Sieglinda. Brunhilde knows that it is Siegmund’s sister that bears in her the seed of a true hero. Accordingly, Sieglinda is encouraged to endure anything rather than allow the seed to miscarry. Sieglinda buys this argument totally and taking the fragments of the sword escapes into the forest. Wotan arrives a bit too late for Sieglinda, but right on schedule for a confrontation with Brunhilde.
The motif associated with preserving the seed and/or offspring of the hero, even when the hero is doomed, is a curious ratification of the importance of continuation of an idea or simply the continuation of a lifeline. One interpretation of the events in Pontius Pilate's court was that Barrabas was in reality "Jesus Barrabas" where "Barrabas" can be translated as "son of the father." The crowd of Jews had apparently realized the poor prospects of the elder Jesus' survival, and were determined to at least preserve the royal line. According to one Wikipedia's essay:
In yet another classic tale, Isis saves the seed of Osiris in order to create Horus, the latter whom will avenge his father's death. The seed preserving motif is thus a critical element in the pursuit of cosmic justice -- i.e. whereby a son or daughter can avenge the wrongful death of a parent. It's as if there is a human need to refuse to accept that a hero can be killed, and that that ends the story. And of course, some times the idea can be fun as when Inigo Montoya seeks to kill the six-fingered man who had killed is father in The Princess Bride.
Wotan’s plan was clearly in disarray. How was the rebel to be disarmed? How was the world to be protected against it in the meantime? Clearly Loki’s help was needed here for it is the Lie that must, on the highest principles, hide the Truth.
The clever Loki suggests that he surround the mountain top with the appearance of a consuming fire; one sufficient to discourage anyone who might dare penetrate to Brunhilde. It was true that if any man were to walk boldly into the fire, he would discover it at once to be a lie, an illusion, and a mirage through which he might carry a sack of gunpowder without a problem. The key was to make the fire appear so terrible that only the future hero would venture through it. From Wotan’s viewpoint, this would solve the problem. Nevertheless, Wotan, with a breaking heart, took his leave of Brunhilde, throwing her into a deep sleep, and covering her with her long war-shield. He then summoned Loki, who arrived in the shape of a wall of fire surrounding the mountain peak. It was then that Wotan turned his back on Brunhilde forever.
The fiction of hell is one of those paradigm-breaking concepts so eagerly disputed by religious fanatics, anal-retentives and other control freaks. Everything about the concept of a fiery destination is disputed by any suggestion of a creator god who is omnipotent and omniscience. It is simply superfluous. And its counter-part of Hades doesn't quite make it either, as Hades is considered to be from whence all good things derive. Finally, Tom Robbins may have said it best in Jitterbug Perfume when he noted that the sign over the doorway into hell read, "Lighten Up".
With that it is now time for the new hero to be born and raised. It's showtime for Siegfried, the latest product from the family of the Siegs!
 George Bernard Shaw, The Perfect Wagnerite: A Commentary on the Niblung’s Ring, Dover Publications, New York, 1967 (an unabridged and unaltered republication of the fourth edition (1923), as published by Constable & Co., London).
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